South Sudan joins the symbolic world of international football

Dark clouds had gathered over Juba’s renovated football stadium, but for the 15,000 people who had turned up in South Sudan’s capital it was a time for celebration.

A little under 24 hours after South Sudan became the newest country on earth after declaring its independence from Khartoum — a bloody battle it had waged intermittently since the 1950s — the first true test of the fledgling republic took place.

On July 10, South Sudan played its very first international football match, becoming not just the youngest nation on earth, but the youngest national football team too.

“We were all very emotional as it was the first time that our national team played, singing the national anthem,” recalled Makuac Teny, Minister for Sport in the newly-formed South Sudan government.
South Sudan becomes newest U.N. member state

Like the rest of the crowd, he had gathered to watch his team take on Kenyan Premier League side Tusker F.C. for a match whose result, for once, wasn’t important. “It was the first time our song was heard,” explained Teny…

“The honor goes to Kenya, the first country to hear the national anthem of Sudan. They honored us. That was a win in itself, to hear the national anthem played. Although they won 3-1, I knew the flag of Southern Sudan would be raised.”

Bravo. Congratulations to our South Sudan brothers and sisters.

“If I die on Sunday, it will be in a free country”

Photograph: Xan Rice for the Guardian

The freedom suit is tan, single-breasted and has three buttons. It hangs in Charles Mamur’s tent, covered by a black bag to protect it from the dust that blows in from the dirt streets of South Sudan’s capital, Juba.

Mamur bought the suit two years ago for about £50 but he has never worn it. He was keeping it for a special occasion, a time that he had dreamed of since the day nearly 50 years ago when, as a 10-year-old boy, he took up arms against the Arab government in Khartoum in the north.

I never believed that the moment of freedom would come,” Mamur, 58, said this week, unzipping the bag to show off his suit, as well as the yellow tie and black shoes he picked to go with it. “But I wanted to be well dressed if it did.”

The moment has now arrived. At around noon on Saturday in the swelter of Juba, a besuited Mamur will be among tens of thousands of South Sudanese and foreign dignitaries, including the British foreign secretary, William Hague, and the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who will watch as the flag of Sudan is lowered. Then, a giant South Sudan flag, six metres by four metres, will be raised on a 32-metre electronically operated flagpole that was installed this week by Chinese contractors who claim it is the tallest on the continent.

Six years after the end of Africa’s longest-running civil war – and one of its deadliest – its largest country will be officially split in two. The Arab-dominated north under President Omar al-Bashir will remain Sudan, only with much less territory and oil. The ethnically African, non-Muslim south, governed by former rebel Salva Kiir, will become the 193rd country to join the United Nations – the Republic of South Sudan.

RTFA. Long and filled with anecdotes from the history of this struggle for independence.

Scholars and students of history can step back and analyze the pros and cons of secession, of independence for nations from another. There are historic definitions – and damned few reasonable, successful examples.

As a general rule, I rarely support the politics behind secession. This time, I think the joy of self-rule will be worth the political toil that follows the bitter civil war that preceded the founding of the nation of South Sudan.

Khartoum accepts results of secession referendum

Waiting in line to vote

Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, Sudan’s vice president, has said that he accepts the oil-producing south’s split after the first official results showed a 99 per cent vote for independence in a referendum hoping to end a bitter cycle of civil war.

“We announce our agreement and our acceptance of the result of the referendum announced yesterday.

“We wish our brothers in the south good luck and a fruitful future in organising the issues surrounding the new country.” said Taha on Monday.

The comments end speculation that hard-line elements in the Khartoum government would delay recognition of the referendum to garner leverage ahead of talks on how to divide the country’s assets and liabilities.

Taha negotiated the 2005 accord with southern rebel leader John Garang who died three weeks after taking office in the coalition government formed under the deal.

The south is now looking to the international community to recognise its independence, which will likely happen once the final results are confirmed next month…

The vote for separation was 99.57 per cent,” Chan Reek Madut, the deputy head of the commission organising the vote, told cheering crowds on Sunday in the first official announcement of preliminary results…

Madut said voter turnout in the south was also 99 per cent. He said more than 60 per cent of eligible voters turned out in the country’s north, 58 per cent of whom voted for secession.

Bravo. Decades overdue.